What seems to be the trouble , he asks .
I cough and splutter all over the place .
He gets the message .
Sits down to write the certificate .
There , he says , handing the form to me . This should do the trick .
I peruse it quickly .
There’s something missing, I say, why I had time off .
That’s right . If you had Alzheimers or a social disease would you want
people to know ?
Certainly not .
My point exactly .
But I thought you had to put something down .
No , he says . And if they ask , tell them to take a running jump . Better still , tell them to phone me and I’ll tell them to take a running jump . Only in stronger terms .
He stands up . Shakes my hand .
The next day at work I hand in the certificate .
He’s right .
They see the blank space but no one says a word .
I push it a bit further .
On the official form , the one you fill out yourself , where it says Illness I put down ‘See Certificate’ .
It feels good . It really does .
I’ve found a new way to treat with the world .
I remember Uncle Bert.
He had had a stroke.
His mouth was always open
Though he never spoke.
He sat on his armchair
Alongside Aunty Pat
Who did the speaking for him.
She was good at that.
He once looked a film star
A Gable or a Flynn.
And often charmed the ladies
with a rakish grin.
But then one day he emptied
and forever after that
Loyal as a labrador
he followed Aunty Pat.
What’s the first word you’re going to forget? The first word that’s going to slip through the sieve in your brain?
The name of your partner, child, grandson?
With me it was an item of food.
A breakfast food we eat once a week on Wednesday. I knew it began with ‘c’ and that it was a French-sounding word like ‘croutons’ but it wasn’t that.
I could have asked my partner but I didn’t want to embarrass myself.
I did not want to acknowledge that ‘the forgetting’ had begun.
Then after a week it came to me in a flash, like the click of a thumb. I wrote it down on a pad with a marker pen just in case but I needn’t have bothered.
Now I enjoy my croissants that little bit more.
It had been on the vacant lot next to the church
For over half a year and no one in all that time
Could rustle up enough motivation to mow the lawn
Or clear it of rubbish. I thought of calling
The number on the back a few times but just couldn’t
Get motivated enough to ring or attend one
Of their weekly meetings & I thought about something
A friend had said about running a Special Olympics
For the Motivationally Challenged but the problem
With that, I said, was that nobody would bother
To turn up. I thought then of the historically highly
Motivated: Hitler, Stalin, the rapacious bankers, Isis
And concluded that a low motivated populace isn’t
Necessarily a bad thing.
As soon as you walk in you see them paraded
along the walls
exemplars of Beauty and Strength:
Warnie unleashing a leg spinner,
Its eye on middle stump, Krygios rocketing another ball
past his opponent,
Thorpie diving into glory,
even one of cane growers in Queensland,
big blocky blokes in blue singlets
bringing in the harvest;
of Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Olympics.
But my humerus and hamstrings
were playing up.
On good days
I can do almost anything, but
on bad ones I can barely put one foot in front
of the other, bounce a ball
let alone slam it down centre court
at 200 kph
and the only way I could get in a pool is to fall in it.
You had to fore warn people.
It was not a good look.
Scabs and bruises on the upper lip
Sores on the nose
So you said, “bar room brawl”
Half jokingly, “but you should have seen
The other fellow.”
It was more dramatic, more grunge-romantic
Than humdrum “cold sores.”